Fault compensation scheme agreed between Ofcom and major broadband providers
Automatic compensation has been something Ofcom has been working on for a while and with industry and Ofcom now reaching agreement on the levels of compensation that would be automatically be credited to a customers account for various faults and issues.
Before people get too excited it should be highlighted that there will be a 15 month implementation period and while we are sure Ofcom will take a dim view if all the providers do nothing until one week before the end of the 15 month period there will be plenty of work tieing the call centre, fault tracking and billing systems together at the various providers who have agreed to the scheme.
BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen Internet have agreed to the automatic compensation scheme which will cover both landline and broadband services for consumers and small business, it is understood that EE and Plusnet have indicated they will join the scheme.
So what can you get compensation for? Well lets be clear this is not about automatic compensation because your broadband was too slow to watch a film on a Friday night when it normally can but is more around hard faults.
- Delays in repairing a service where it has stopped working and more than two full working days have passed. Compensation will be £8 for each calender day that the service has not been repaired beyond the two day window.
- Engineer not turning up. £25 for every missed appointment, and this includes cancellation with less than 24 hours notice.
- Missed service start date. £5 for each calendar day of delay, and this includes the day the service was meant to go live.
Ofcom does mention a tabloid grabbing headline figure of £142m in payouts which is nine times higher than what providers pay out voluntarily currently, but we suspect that providers will endeavour to reduce the number of incidents where the automatic compensation is due. Improving systems so that compensation is not needed is something the majority would welcome, since working broadband is generally a lot better than get £8 per day compensation usually. Hopefully Ofcom will use its vast resources to monitor the operators and make sure we don't see new service dates being extended i.e. rather than quote an optimistic 3 weeks longer periods of 6 weeks might become the norm.
Putting our lateral thinking hat on, there is also the risk that some operators may be more picking in which services they sell to different people, so if an area has a history of more lengthy faults a provider may well refuse to sell a service to people.
Getting broadband faults accepted as an actual fault is already pretty difficult with some providers who due to the risk of 'no fault' charges being raised by Openreach can spend a couple of days with fault finding and with the risk of having to pay out we can envisage more frustration as people try to get broadband faults accepted, e.g. massive packet loss of 50% or more that makes the broadband as useless as trying to use a 14.4k dialup modem. We also presume providers will be tracking who keeps having repeat faults, i.e. to avoid people exploiting the system by faking faults.
It is likely we will see broadband providers build in more remote diagnostics into their 'free' broadband routers and make better use of the facilities already built in, so while many people don't use supplier hardware when you migrate to a new service make sure the providers hardware works and if there ever is fault double check that their hardware has the same problem.
Update 12:30pm A statement from Matt Hancock MP
Broadband is no longer a "nice to have", but a modern necessity, and we all know how frustrating it is when it doesn't work.
We've strengthened Ofcom's powers to make sure providers pay compensation when service falls short, and I'm pleased that progress is being made. It now needs to be implemented as quickly as possible for it to deliver meaningful improvements in service quality.
Ultimately, the best way to improve the customer experience, though, is for the nation to upgrade from today's technology of "copper to the premise" to our full fibre future, and we are doing all we can to make that happen.Minister for Digital Matt Hancock
While we agree with the Minister that full fibre is the route to go these days and generally full fibre does see less faults, since there are no metallic corrosion or loose joints faults that lead to noise picking killing the DSL signal. A multi billion pound rollout to cure those issues is a tough one to justify to shareholders and we are sure the big institutional shareholders should have been weighing this up when deciding whether to invest more or sweat existing assets and applying according pressure to not just BT Group but other operators. The other elements like delayed installs and the myriad of other faults that will still affect full fibre would obviously still occur. We therefore urge caution for those with the power to change/direct the industry to be wary of adopting the technology cycle that the next iteration will fix everything that is wrong with the existing technology. 5G is hurtling down that path very rapidly and some full fibre marketing does seem to overlook the little fact that consumer broadband is only cheap because the Internet bandwidth at some point is shared between many others - this statement was true in 1997 and is still true twenty years later.